One Mom Turning 34

Posted by Carly Morgan

Today is my 34th birthday.


I’ve had 34 years so far. I’ve traveled all around. I’ve had a million great conversations. I’ve listened to my favorite albums over and over again. I’ve laughed to the point of tears in a hundred movie theaters. I’ve spent a few thousand days smiling at my husband. I’ve pulled all-nighters. I’ve cooked feasts. I’ve had my toes in two oceans. I married my favorite person. I’ve felt the first butterfly kicks of three babies. I’ve even loved hard enough to outlast grief.

I am one of the lucky and I know it and even though it’s tempting sometimes to list all the things I don’t have (yet) and all the things I haven’t done or haven’t learned or haven’t gotten over, in this world today I am feeling especially lucky and tonight I’ll celebrate in my little house with my little family and feel grateful for a million things including you, friend. So happy my birthday to you!

Book Reviews: #cleverkidsread 1/27

Posted by Carly Morgan

Friday book reviews are back because my book list has gotten longer and longer and it’s time to start trimming it down! I was very happy with a couple of these this week, especially the ones I read with the kids. Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means I get Amazon credit to buy more books if you click through.


Box – Min Flyte (Published Aug 23 2016)

Such a cute book! It’s a lift-the-flap book but that doesn’t even explain how creative and crazy the flaps get as these kids explore all of the possibilities a cardboard box holds. Both kids loved it and immediately went off to round up all of the empty boxes in the house so they could get started on ships, trains, and rockets.


Lila and the Crow – Gabrielle Grimard (Published 11 Oct 2016)

This is the story of Lila, the new girl at school who has dark skin and hair. I knew the book was about bullying, but I was surprised at how sad this book is. It has lovely illustrations but the basic idea is that the children at Lila’s school are cruel to her because of the way she looks until she wins them over at the end by showing how beautiful she is. I think it’s an important story but my kids wanted to know what happened next, what Lila said to the kids who were once mean to her, and why nobody stepped up to be nice to her in the first place. It gave us a lot to talk about and we did enjoy the pictures, but this isn’t one that’s destined to be a favorite in our home.


You Are Three – Sara O’Leary (Coming 15 Mar 2017)

We all loved these illustrations! The pictures are what makes this one worth a read since they’re familiar subjects (a child running through sprinklers) but so well done they’re like something you’d see in a museum. The text is nice but I think parents will the words more than the kids will because it’s mostly sentimentality about this part of childhood. That being said, get it for the eye candy.


Up! – Susan Hughes (Coming 15 Apr 2017)

We loved this book! Illustrated with sweet papercut images of babies and their families, the book talks about the different ways people carry babies. The text is simple but the illustrations are just wonderful and so inclusive with people in different situations all over the world. My older kids immediately wanted to pack their two month old brother up and start carrying him around in a basket on a pole so we had a nice talk about how not all of those methods work for every family (or every anxious mom!).


Meatless? – Sarah Elton (Coming 15 May 2017)

I was hoping this would be something like Forks Over Knives for middle readers but I actually found this book to be too one sided. Although a lot of good arguments for vegetarianism were made, I don’t think there was enough discussion about why people do choose to eat meat. It was also more graphic than I thought it was going to be, which I suppose would be an effective way to covert young people away from eating meat but probably won’t sit well with parents of less mature readers. Overall, I was disappointed that the positive messages of this book were drowned out.


Come Be Wild With Me – Kristen Maxwell (Coming 1 Apr 2017)

This is a picture book about leaving modern life behind and returning to nature to “be wild” but I would consider it more of a picture book for adults than for children. My kids only sort of caught on to what the book was saying and got a little bored toward the end because the illustrations, while beautiful and different, are a little repetitive. There’s also a lot in the text that was just about the heads of my 3 and 5 year olds so I’d call this one a near miss for our family.


Mindfulness for Parents – Amber Hatch (Coming 14 Feb 2017)

Best parenting book I’ve read in the last few months! I am a huge fan of the practice of mindfulness (being “in” the present moment) but I’m also someone who struggles to incorporate that practice into everyday life. There were definitely elements of this book that are probably unrealistic in my chaotic three kids life but the majority of her ideas and tips are solid and I was able to put some into practice right away. The chapter on Mindful Speaking and Listening was especially helpful and I’ve noticed little changes in how I interact with the kids and with my husband just because I’m paying more attention.

Sidenote – it’s a very forgiving book if you feel like your journey to mindfulness is a little rocky. Sometimes these types of books are so preachy about their inner peace I just want to throw them in the nearest serenity pool but this one wasn’t annoying like that at all. It’s out on Valentines Day but you can pre-order it!

Eva Explains Chinese New Year

Posted by Carly Morgan

A couple of weeks ago I was filling out the month of January on our family calendar and Eva asked if I knew anything about her Kindergarten class having a Chinese New Year party. I explained that it isn’t something that everyone celebrates, especially here in Salt Lake City, so she asked if she could tell her class about it and maybe have a party. I nixed the party idea but checked in with her teacher and this morning Eva gave her first school presentation. I didn’t get to see it but I made her practice for me at home and she did so well! I know it’s a total mom moment but she’s just so cute when she’s being a know-it-all about stuff.

The Year of the Rooster starts this Saturday so if you need some ideas for little celebrations at home you can check out our picks for Chinese New Year picture books or the steamed Chinatown cake I made last year for my birthday. Gung hay fat choy!

Styleboard: A Playroom for the Whole Family

Posted by Carly Morgan

I love our playroom. It’s the largest room in the house with the most light and the most space to spend time together as a family. It’s been through about a thousand redecorations but right now we have everything just how we want it, from the table we play board games on to the big rug we use to race toy cars.

After all those different reorganizations, I finally figured out that family playrooms (A) need to not be too crowded, (B) need to have lots of open-ended creative toys like blocks, and (C) need to have a place for everyone to settle and read books or just take a break from all the play. If you’re like us and you have young kids and a tight budget, it also needs to be filled with affordable furnishings that can take a beating without losing their cheer, so I thought I’d put together a little styleboard for you. The purple sectional sofa is only $175!

Affiliate links – EverEarth Garden Activity Cube /// Melissa & Doug Wooden Building Blocks Set /// KidKraft Lego Compatible 2 in 1 Activity Table /// Top Loading Karaoke System /// Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh Canvas Print /// Canvas Storage Bin /// Euphoria CaliTime Cushion Cover /// Hand Knitted Cable Style Dori Pouf /// Melissa & Doug Hop and Count Hopscotch Game Rug /// Classic and Traditional Small Space Velvet Sectional Sofa with Reversible Chaise

Easy Meal Planning with a Free Printable Monthly Calendar

Posted by Carly Morgan

I have freebies for you today!

If you’re working on simplifying your life in 2017, you’re going to like this one. I’ve tried meal planning for years but I would always drop the habit after a few weeks because I’d forget to plan over the weekend and then I’d shop without knowing what we needed and the next thing you know everyone is eating Nachos Bell Grande and I’m chalking the whole project up as a loss.

It turns out that weekly meal planning doesn’t work for me BUT monthly meal planning makes my life a whole lot easier. The trick is to repeat what you’re eating from week to week. For example, at dinner we have chicken on Monday, burritos on Tuesday, pasta on Wednesday, stir fry on Thursday, and freezer meals on Friday. Breakfasts and lunches repeat as well!

It sounds boring but unless you’re Rachel Ray you probably repeat a lot of meals anyway (particularly if you have little kids) and a week of spacing things out seems to be enough time for us to not get sick of anything. Plus, I plan a little generally (like burritos every Tuesday) and then vary the details from week to week (grilled mushroom burritos last week, spicy turkey burritos tonight).

The best part about planning a month at a time is that I can plan out my shopping all at once. I try to only grocery shop once a week and we do 90% of our food shopping at either Costco or Trader Joe’s so when I make the calendar I write down which stores I’m going to hit each week and plan accordingly. If it’s a Costco week, I know I can plan on a rotisserie chicken so we have things like chicken burritos and chicken soup. If it’s a Trader Joe’s week, I’m more likely to include a variety of veggies because I’m not buying them in bulk.


  1. I’m saving money by planning out my shopping in advance and splitting my bulk purchases to last through the month.
  2. I plan out three meals a day so I don’t ever have to go stare blankly into the fridge while hungry kids whine behind me.
  3. By not planning on eating out, we get less take out. It still happens but it’s turned into a real treat where it used to be something we did 3-4 times per week.
  4. I can sit down on the weekend and write out our whole week’s menu in less than five minutes without stressing or flipping through Pinterest.
  5. When I actually want to make something fancy/creative/Pinterest-y, it’s easy to bump whatever is on the menu because everything repeats to some extent.

The actual planning pages I use are pretty blank but the calendar has a place for all three meals plus a space on the end of the week to write down which store I’m hitting that week. I couldn’t find anything like it so I had to create my own so I’m sharing my 2017 calendars with you in case you’re interested:

January 2017

Feburary 2017

March 2017

April 2017

May 2017

June 2017

July 2017

August 2017

September 2017

October 2017

November 2017

December 2017

I also have our weekly planner page. This is what gets posted on the fridge so I don’t have to answer “what are we having for ____ ?” five million times per day. Honestly, I feel like it was also the big motivation for Calvin to start reading – he wanted to know what was coming to the table!

Meals for the Week

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